Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mixed feelings about the Baucus bill

While I've not learned enough about the regional non-profit co-ops mentioned in an AP article I read this morning on the Baucus bill, from what I've heard I'm not completely opposed. I do have to share that I participate in an electric co-op currently.

I do like the idea of mandating that preventative and mental health services be included in insurance plans and that only US citizens and legal immigrants will be able to access these services. My heart goes out to the plight of many illegal immigrants, but if you choose to be in a country, you should do so legally. I believe our current immigration policy also needs to be completely overhauled, but that's a topic for another day.

But, if this is the bill Congress plans to try to push through, then I've got to state some hard and fast objections to a couple of the provisions:

First of all, one of the platforms Obama campaigned on and one of the biggest reasons why I supported him is that he did not want to require people to purchase insurance. He simply wanted to make it available to people who wanted it through a public option that was similar to the insurance our government already provides to our elected officials, federal employees, veterans, etc. If the co-op idea can provide the same kind of service, I won't be opposed provided it is affordable and provides the care those of us who are living paycheck to paycheck need.

But the idea of our government ordering me to support an entire industry that I already think has a lot of crooked shenanigans or paying a fine if I don't is completely an invasion into my personal life.

In addition to it being an invasion in my personal liberty, I also think this is a completely classist provision. There is no guarantee that this bill will make health insurance affordable. So when the government says buy insurance or you have to pay a fine, I have a problem for the millions of us who may not be able to afford it.

One point of the article struck me:
"Not carrying insurance could result in a steep fine, as much as $3,800 per family, or $950 for an individual. People who can't afford their premiums would be exempted from the fine."
However, after further research, I found a WSJ article that linked to a summary of the proposed bill which shared some info about the exemption:
"An exemption from the penalty is permitted if coverage is deemed unaffordable – defined based on a circumstance where the lowest cost premium available exceeds 10% of a person’s income. Exemptions from the penalty are also allowed based on hardship, for Native Americans and for individuals below 100% of poverty. Additionally, in 2013, individuals at or below 133% of poverty will be exempt from the penalty.

For taxpayers between 100-300% of poverty, the penalty for failing to obtain health coverage is $750 per year with a maximum penalty per family of $1500. For taxpayers with incomes above
300% of poverty, the penalty for failing to obtain coverage is $950 per year with a maximum penalty per family of $3800."
Now after doing the math, I've determined that I'm definitely paying more than 10% of my income on health insurance premiums... to the tune of 16% of my income and that doesn't even include all the copays for prescriptions and office visits. I'm hoping this means the changes they're proposing will actually work and reduce prices on insurance.

My next objection is that this bill refuses to allow federal funds to be used for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother (not health of the mother). Let me be plain, I am personally against abortion for myself. I've never had one and never will; although I have to admit to a scare one time that made me do some hard thinking about it. I've also had friends who have had abortions, and while I wish they could have made a different decision, I supported them and helped them. According to the AP article I linked above, insurance plans can include the option, but the woman would have to use her own money to pay for that coverage. This again is a classist provision and will leave many women without the ability to choose, which last I heard was still one of our rights.

To have an abortion is a difficult decision for anyone, but if the government is going to stick its nose into my body's business, it should do so fairly. As it stands now, I'm feeling a lot of hypocrisy in this provision.

If the Right to Life value is so important to our government, then why have we been responsible for thousands of deaths (our soldiers, their soldiers, enemy combatants, and innocent foreign citizens) in all the wars and military actions we've waged during my lifetime?

Why is Right to Life always defined as an unborn child and not all the perfectly wonderful living people who are already here? Why can't Right to Life actually mean right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Isn't that what life's supposed to be about?

So here's my response to this one... If federal funds may not be used to provide legal abortions to women in need of them, then federal funds should not be used to cause the deaths (especially of innocent people) in any military action. A life is life, is it not? And from what I heard from several Right to Life acquaintances of mine, "Every life is precious."

Last but not least, I'm also confused by this provision in the summary:
"Employer Responsibility. Employers would not be required to offer health insurance coverage. However, employers with more than 50 full-time employees (30 hours and above) that do not offer health coverage must pay a fee for each employee who receives the tax credit for health insurance through an exchange. The assessment is based on the amount of the tax credit received by the employee(s), but would be capped at an amount equal to $400 multiplied by the total number of employees at the firm (regardless of how many receive a credit in the exchange). Employees participating in a welfare-to-work program, children in foster care and workers with a disability are exempted from this calculation.

As a general matter, if an employee is offered employer-provided health insurance coverage, the individual is ineligible for the tax credit for health insurance purchased through an exchange. An employee who is offered unaffordable coverage by their employer, however, can be eligible for the tax credit. Unaffordable is defined as 13% of the employee’s income. The employee would seek an affordability waiver from the exchange and would have to demonstrate family income and the premium of the lowest cost employer option offered to them. Employees would then present the waiver to the employer. The employer assessment would apply for any employee(s) receiving an affordability waiver. Within five years of implementation, the Secretary must conduct a study to determine if the definition of affordable could be lowered without significantly increasing costs or decreasing employer coverage."
Why is insurance considered unaffordable for a penalty exemption at 10% of one's income, yet unaffordable is defined at 13% when it comes to employer-provided coverage? And how does this change in employer-provided insurance comply with Obama's campaign promise that those with employer-provided care would be able to keep their insurance unchanged?

I know I've mentioned several different issues. I'd really love to hear some other perspectives.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Greetings! Thanks for joining in the conversation on my blog. Please know that I am all about listening and not judging. Please follow the Golden Rule when posting. Be kind to others and if you disagree with me or another commenter, please do so politely. Thanks and have a lovely day!